Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in deep-water subarctic sediments (Faroe-Shetland Channel)

E. Gontikaki (Corresponding Author), L.D. Potts, J.A. Anderson, U. Witte (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Aims. The aim of this study was the baseline description of oil-degrading sediment bacteria along a depth transect in the Faroe-Shetland Channel (FSC) and the identification of biomarker taxa for the detection of oil contamination in FSC sediments. Methods and Results. Oil-degrading sediment bacteria from 135, 500 and 1000 m were enriched in cultures with crude oil as the sole carbon source (at 12, 5 and 0oC respectively). The enriched communities were studied using culture-dependent and culture-independent (clone libraries) techniques. Isolated bacterial strains were tested for hydrocarbon degradation capability. Bacterial isolates included well-known oil-degrading taxa and several that are reported in that capacity for the first time (Sulfitobacter, Ahrensia, Belliella, Chryseobacterium). The orders Oceanospirillales and Alteromonadales dominated clone libraries in all stations but significant differences occurred at genus level particularly between the shallow and the deep, cold-water stations. Alcanivorax constituted 64% of clones at FSC135 but was absent at deeper stations. Pseudoalteromonas and Oleispira dominated the bacterial community at 500 and 1000 m. Conclusions. The genus Oleispira emerged as a major player in the early stages of crude oil degradation in deep-sea sediments of the FSC particularly at sub-zero temperatures. This finding is offering a direction for future research into biomonitoring tools for the detection of low levels of crude oil contamination in the deep FSC, and possibly high latitude cold waters in general. Significance and Impact of Study. Oil and gas exploration in the FSC occurs at depths >1000 m but baseline environmental data necessary for the assessment of ecosystem recovery to pre-spill conditions in the event of an oil spill are lacking. This study will contribute to our ability to assess the impact of oil release in the FSC and guide the direction of bioremediation strategies tailored to the area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1040-1053
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number4
Early online date24 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • hydrocarbon degradation
  • marine bacteria
  • sediment
  • oil spill
  • Oleispira
  • Faroe-Shetland Channel
  • isolates
  • clone libraries


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